Being Online Under Late-Capitalism: An Intimate Isolation Matrix

This blog is not serious.

I take a swig of coffee and a frustrated bite of a clif bar. Both of these items contain a substantial amount of caffeine and sugar which I will eventually feel guilty about but I stayed up too late and woke up too late to “make breakfast” so I’m fueling myself accordingly.

This blog is a big ol’ silly joke.

I drink more coffee. Say good morning to my coworker who is coming in from the cold and just sitting down at her desk. She’s thrice my age and freshly divorced. She’s always excited about her first grandson who’s now ten months old. She shows me pictures of him on her phone near daily and I wonder how someone can raise a child and then their child can raise a child when I still feel like a child despite technically Not being a child. I look down at my own desk and hope I look convincingly busy with Work Things rather than typing this post on fucking wordpress dot com.

This blog is a Goof and if no one reads it that’s why. If it’s a joke then I won’t care whether anyone looks. If you don’t laugh it’s because the joke isn’t funny and subsequently I become worthless. But it’s fine! you’re fine! I’m projecting.

I take another swig of coffee. Check my phone for notifications and rapidly pretend that the lack of digital alerts is more relieving than disappointing. I pretend not to be afraid of this reaction.

Vulnerability is easy when I’m in control.

No, this is a lie. Even when it seems I’m engaging in vulnerability I’m actually just casting a shadow. Waving my hands in front of a shadeless lamp to create vague shapes on the wall for an audience. Shapes that look so much like intimacy even I can’t tell the difference. The lamp is twitter dot com. The audience is my followers. The wall is a deflecting joke. The reflection of my hands are my tweets and my real hands are all of my drafts that I somehow have enough self-control to not share. The cave is Online and I’m, unfortunately, jacked the fuck in.

Plato can eat my ass.

Between phone calls at work I consider the shame I feel when I peel back the shadows like stickers. When I stop moving or turn off the lamp or make enough noise for the audience to look behind them, away from the shapes on the wall, to see me doubled over trying very hard to cry but I can’t and I’m afraid of this too. Sometimes I wear the shadows. Ask the audience to face me; to stand behind the lamp and cast their own shapes onto my body. Is this intimacy?

word art by me

Structural Isolation

I’m the youngest at work. My co-worker who’s closest in age to me is 46. Twenty-two years my senior. She has a son who’s 17 and a husband she’s been with since she was 15. My other co-worker is 63. Her daughter has a son and I’ve seen enough pictures to feel like I know him. I’ve been here for a year and a half. I like my job. Sometimes, I even enjoy it. But I feel trapped in a holding period. Living in a state of constant distraction–stuck between work and pleasure and what I want and what I think I want. I can’t relax enough to separate the latter two.

I know there are worse places to be than bored at a desk job. I’m aware of the privilege I have that I can complain about this. But I’m afraid of fading. Afraid of complacency and afraid of ending up like my parents. The boredom has led to a reliance on social media to serve multiple purposes for me. To socialize, obviously, an outlet for difficult feelings or terrible jokes, to meet friends who I cherish but what is most difficult to sit with is the constant, gnawing desire to be seen.

What does it mean to be Seen?

I stopped writing this to scroll through my camera roll. I picked out one selfie I took per month from 2018. Scrolled all the way back, past photos of me with my ex, past screenshots of text messages I never want to read again, past an embarrassing amount of selfies I was not satisfied with yet never deleted, past a vast amount of digital intimacy* I’m ashamed of. After I spent some time selecting my favorites, I posted them to twitter with little comment. Waited for the likes to roll in.

Why did I do this? What message am I trying to send? Am I saying “please don’t forget about me?” Or am I saying “please look at me?” Or, are these two questions the same? These selfies are shadows. What’s inside my camera roll is my hands making shapes of which you’ll only see the reflections.

The act of even making this post feels disingenuous, calculated. I’m struggling to find the right words to explain this experience and my emotions towards how flayed open I feel when there’s even a chance that the audience has turned their backs to the wall and are seeing me.

I hope and desperately don’t hope in equal measure that other people on twitter in particular feel similarly. An ex once explained online connection to me in terms of nodes pinging to each other. Sometimes I think of it this way too. But I think it’s a circular room full of shadeless lamps. Everyone behind the lamps are back to back, unable to see who else is performing. The audience can shift their focus to every wall and see every shadow as it changes shape. Sometimes, the performers can feel someone else behind them. Close enough to touch. Other times, they feel dead air; completely alone.

Turning around isn’t impossible. It just requires turning my back to the audience or having the audience turn to face me.

Footnotes

*: Digital intimacy could mean a lot of things. I see it in this context as a multi-media photo album containing coded secrets. Screenshots of my google searches, screenshots of tweets or posts that resonated with me, memes I created based on my emotional state, things I didn’t want to forget but ultimately lost within everything else. The disorganization contributes to the intimacy. My camera roll is probably more sacred to me than my own diary (if I kept up with one). It would take a lot of trust for me to let someone just scroll through it.

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